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Two missing Port Alberni teens last seen near Dease Lake in northern B.C. were looking for work in Whitehorse or Alberta, family members say.
Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are considered missing after police found their vehicle on fire about 50 kilometres south of Dease Lake, a community of about 300, on Friday. A body of a dead man was discovered two kilometres away at a highway pullout. Police have confirmed the body is not that of either of the missing men.
RCMP aren’t ruling out a possible connection between the missing teenagers, the body discovered nearby and a double homicide last week on the Alaska Highway.
Schmegelsky’s grandmother, Carol Starkey, said McLeod and Schmegelsky left Port Alberni on July 12 to find work in Whitehorse. When they arrived in Whitehorse a few days later, they decided it wasn’t what they had expected. Starkey, who was last in touch with her grandson on July 13 or 14, isn’t sure what their plans were after that.
Schmegelsky had been living with his grandmother for the last two years. “He was a great kid. I really enjoyed having him,” she said.
Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, a media relations officer for the RCMP, said in a press conference Monday that it is unusual to have two simultaneous major crime investigations in northern B.C. She recommended “heightened vigilance and awareness” for anyone travelling in the area.
The missing men have not been in contact with their family for the last few days. They were last seen travelling south from the Super A general store in Dease Lake at about 3:15 p.m. on Thursday.
Police said it’s unclear what their travel plans were at the time they went missing.
Alan Schmegelsky, Bryer’s father, said the pair, best friends since elementary school, had been working night shifts at Walmart in Port Alberni to save money for the trip.
“They’re best friends who did everything together,” Schmegelsky said. “They even got jobs together at Walmart. They were just out on an adventure.”
Schmegelsky said he travelled to Port Alberni from his home in Victoria every other week to visit his son. He was on his way on July 12 when he received a message from Bryer saying he and McLeod were headed to Alberta and might not have Internet access for a while.
He said he assumed the two were heading to Red Deer, where Bryer’s cousins live. He has been trying to contact him every day since.
Schmegelsky described his son, who did not finish high school, as “a smart kid” who was into computer games, curious about his ancestry and just starting to become less introverted. Schmegelsky said neither Bryer nor Kam is violent or into drugs.
He said both Bryer and Kam love to play games that simulate war and involve hunting and camouflage. He thinks the instincts they learned from playing those games could help explain where they are now.
“These kids are smart,” he said. “If they sensed any kind of danger, they would have gone into the woods and hid. With no cellphones and no GPS, they probably got lost in the woods.”
Schmegelsky, who is separated from Bryer’s mother, said the last time he saw his son was on June 28, and he learned Bryer was missing when he saw a story in a newspaper.
“No one contacted me,” he said. “But they should have. I shouldn’t be sitting in Starbucks seeing my kid’s picture.”
He has since been in touch with an RCMP officer, who told him they were looking into whether there is a connection between this case and that of two tourists found dead on the side of the Alaska Highway.
The bodies of 23-year-old Australian Lucas Fowler and 24-year-old American Chynna Deese were found about 470 kilometres from the missing men’s burning vehicle on July 15. RCMP confirmed Monday the two were victims of gun violence.
RCMP are investigating the deaths, and have released a sketch of a man who was seen speaking to Fowler the day before the couple’s bodies were found. Police said they are interested in speaking to the man.
Dease Lake RCMP released a sketch of the man found dead close to the burning vehicle, and are working to identify him. He is estimated to be about 50 to 60 years old, and described as Caucasian and five foot eight inches to five foot 10 inches tall with a heavy build, grey hair and a grey, bushy beard.
McLeod and Schmegelsky were travelling in a red and grey Dodge pickup truck outfitted with a camper with the B.C. licence plate LW6433.
McLeod is described as six-foot-four and about 170 pounds. He has dark brown hair, brown eyes and facial hair. Schmegelsky is also six-foot-four and weighs about 170 pounds, according to RCMP, although his father said he is closer to 125 pounds.
RCMP are also investigating the disappearance of two Surrey men considered missingafter their vehicle was found near Logan Lake, between Merritt and Kamloops. Ryan Provencher, 38, and Richard Scurr, 37, were last seen about 12:30 p.m. on July 17 in Surrey. They were driving a 2019 white Jeep Cherokee.
Anyone with information about the missing Port Alberni men is asked to call Dease Lake RCMP at 250-771-4111. Information about the identity of the deceased man can be shared with RCMP at 1-877-543-4822 or 778-290-5291.
— Roxanne Egan-Elliott, Times Colonist